Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Tank Shortage: Do You Believe?

Today's post isn't really a blog post at all. I just got done with a forum post in the Prophecy boards discussing what seems to be a growing problem: the dreaded tanking shortage. I used to not believe there was a shortage, but since I started playing level 70 alts, I've gotten to see things from a different perspective. In fact, I think the existance of alts, itself, is perhaps the biggest contributor to the problem. . . but I'll explain that later. So, here in its entirety, the seven reasons I see for the apparent tank shortage in Prophecy, on Steamwheedle Cartel, and I suspect in general.

1: Legitimate tank unavailability. I don't get on until very late. [Prot Warrior 1] has been largely unavailable. I haven't seen [Prot Warrior 2] online in weeks. This is, I think, what people have been noticing most. We have tanks show up for raids, but outside of those raiding timeslots, many of our tanks just aren't available. However, I do not think this is the primary problem, just a part of the puzzle.

2: Lack of motivation to play. As I see it, there are four basic modes in which most people play the game: Grinding, Instancing, Raiding, and PvPing. Lets drop raiding from that list, since we're talking about activities outside of raid times. DPS classes/specs are good at all three of the remaining playstyles. Healers are good at two (not so good at grinding). Tanks are only good at instancing (Barring feral druids, of course, due to our dual nature). If a tank player wants to do anything other than run instances, they're better off logging on to a DPS or healing alt to do it, or respeccing to DPS (and thus still being unavailable as a tank), especially considering how dead our server is when it comes to instance running. Who wants to sit hopelessly on LFG while grinding on mobs as a prot spec?

3: Lack of alt tanks. This is where I see a large part of the problem being. We have a decent contingent of main characters who are tanks. But look at the active alts in our guild, at least at 70, and . . . well, I cant remember the last time I did anything with somebody's tank alt (It was probably a run with [Paladin Tank], who is now a main due to our losing our only other Prot paladin, and needing one for much of the upper level raid content). There are some healing alts, and plenty of DPS alts, but no tank alts, thus shifting the balance of available characters away from tanks.

4: Emphasis on alts. This one combines with #3 and further complicates matters. By and large, this guild's main characters are pretty geared up at this point. Most people, at most raiders, don't really have any upgrades they need from normal instances or heroics. At most they want the badges from heroic runs so they can buy pity-raid-epics from the badge vendor on Sunwell Island once the anvil is built. So, if our main characters have little to no reason to run instances, and our tanks are all main characters, we apply the transitive property (LOLmath) and come to the conclusion that our guild's tanks have no reason to run instances. THIS, I believe, is probably the biggest reason there are never any tanks available.

5: Stricter requirements. This is something that I think might contribute to the lack of tanking alts. Tanks need to be better at their job, and better geared, than other classes just to function at a basic level. Not trying to knock anyone's skill here, but I really, truly believe it. We're at the point now as a guild where we could probably bring a freshly minted DPS character geared in WHITES, have them sit in a safe corner in a heroic run, and 4-man the place to get gear for that person. Healers cant afford to be as undergeared, but ultimately with a T5-geared tank taking the hits, we've already proven that an offspec healer with so-so gear can heal through some rough heroics. An undergeared tank in a heroic, on the other hand, it a recipe for disaster. No matter how good a healer is, they cant keep a tank alive if they're being eaten by chain crits and have only 9k health. No matter how good the DPS is, they cant kill a mob fast enough to keep that from happening, because said tank doesn't have the gear to generate enough threat to keep the mob's attention, and the DPSers end up biting the dust first. So, while we can pretty easily gear up DPSers right as they hit 70 just by babysitting them through some heroics, tanks are a whole other ballgame, and having to gear up an alt slowly isn't that appealing, especially when, as I mentioned before, instance runs are few and far between on our server.

6: Tank demand burnout. A self-fulfilling dilemma, stemming initially from #1, but ultimately perpetuated by all of the points here. Because we have fewer tanks available, when a tank DOES come online they become an extremely hot commodity, like when a mage joins LFG -- Heroic Magisters' Terrace. And while its great to be wanted, its easy to get to the point where tanking runs turns from something fun to an obligation to be fulfilled to your guild. And unfortunately, we tanks are often the sort of person who finds it hard to say no to people. I personally have learned to say no somewhat, but for the record I still feel like an ass whenever someone asks for a tank in guild, I'm on Kirari, and I just stay silent, selfishly spamming the LFG channel for a heroic run for badges to buy his new dagger, wishing the damned tanks would come online.

7: Repair bills. I don't know if this is an actual reason or not. I personally am not fazed in the slightest by my repair bills any more (Even a deathless H-SH run will cost me the better part of ten gold for repairs), but maybe the plate wearers are more sensitive to it, since they dont have a catform to earn the money back with. The fact is, your tank is paying more in repair bills than you. I'll almost gurantee it. Unless you're in T5 epics, your tank is in dungeon greens, and you're wiping like its going out of style, your tank is taking the brunt of the repair costs on himself, simply because every time they get hit, there is a set chance for one of their items to incur a durability hit (and every time they block, their shield has an additional chance to take a point of damage, hence why Jasminne carries two shields with her at all times). And while that 40 gold repair the prot warrior just racked up is just a couple primals to a DPSer, for him to get those primals takes him at least twice as long as you take due to his spec and gear.

Just some points to ponder the next time there are 20 DPSers, 3 healers, and (maybe) 1 tank online in your guild.


Andrew Breese said...

Also being Prot spec makes doing solo and daily quests very hard, and pvp a bit pointless, especially when compared to other specs. With such a huge focus on pvp (the rewards are great) and daily quests gold, the real question is how can the game be modified to make prot viable but not overpowered?

Lypi said...

I do not believe :)

Four friends, tired of big guild drama, formed our guild together: a druid (tank), a mage, a rogue, a priest (holy).

Just amongst ourselves now, all THREE of my friends also now have excellent level 70 tanks. Certainly any heroic gets owned. Three of us also have very capable lvl 70 healers. And that's not counting the DPS alts.

The good part about being a druid is the ease of helping them through their early heroics. YOu can offtank with ease multiple mobs and don't take healer attention from the new tank. And if there's only one thing to tank, go kitty and help bring it down.

The biggest problem is deciding who does what. "Who do you want to bring?" "Whoever" can get endless when four people are saying it...

At least our guildies aren't so bad, and stick to just one or maybe two roles :)

Yashima said...

I know some of the stuff you are talking about. Being a druid myself and switching between the resto and the feral trees, I've seen both.

Our guild does have a shortage of tanks compared to other classes. There are a few people out there who have started healer alts. But nobody really has tank alts except - lol - those who have mains that can also tank, like the feral and his warrior alt or the paladin and his warrior alt (formerly his main ;) ).

Many people are scared to tank. They are scared their gear isn't enough. They are scared they'll get blamed for wipes. They are scared to lead a group because they have never done before and think it is always the tank who has to do it.

We do get enough tanks for Kara. But other than that it is always the same 3 people tanking 5-mans and they are burning out quickly on the demands of the DPS.

Add to that LFG. I have healed PUGs but I will not ever tank a PUG.

Ferals have it best of all the tanks because we can do anything else as a cat.

Alex said...

I tend to agree with the points here, especially the points about #2 and #5

I'd also like to add a #8: Lack of raiding opportunity for tanks as compared to other classes. Once you start raiding, the ratio of tanks to other classes drops. Usually in a 10man you bring 2 tanks at most (and, if they are warriors, that really can be inefficient). In 25mans, maybe max 4 in rare situations? So, if your guild already has a couple of tanks that are regular raiders and more geared, you're going to have to move on or hang your tank up and play an alt. At that point there isn't a ton of motivation to use that tank.

Sabtree said...

*chuckles* Y'know how hard it is not to use my hard-earned badges to buy tanking gear instead of healing gear upgrades? Just so I can do the utility-druid role that much more easier?

The reasons I don't:
1. I don't think the guild would take me seriously as a tank unless I go full respec, full rolechange. Despite the fact I've proven I can tank for half the Outlands instances, and offtanked for large chunks of Kara now.
2. I've been told I need to stay a healer to address the other half of the equation: 'not enough healers'. But y'know as I keep saying, we have enough healers that I can safely sit out of raids and not worry about gimping/cancelling a raid anymore.
3. I'd be a bear tank. >.> And one that can't generate the tons of threat you can at that -- mainly due to missing mangle and some of the high-threat / damage avoidance talents.

On the other hand -- you've seen me tank a few things now. :) I gots potential, I tell ya!


felkan said...

I was going to blame this on you being on a PvP server (my brother has a warrior on a PvP server and it takes a call from Blizzard to get him to re-spec prot for one night), but I just realized you are on the _same_ server I play on. I can't see your armory profile right now, so I'm going to have to assume you must be Alliance (I'm Horde).

As a casual player from a very large casual guild (that for the most part does not raid), we have the opposite problem. Too many tanks but a lack of healers, or at least healers that want to run "tougher" instances (lvl 70 5-mans and Heroics). I have maybe 2-3 healers that will even try heroic. But at least 7+ tanks.

While they seem to be 50-50, I've had quite a bit of good luck running 70 5-mans and some heroics with pugs (found in LFG channel and/or trade).

And your issue regarding gear, doesn't make much sense (at least for Feral tanks). Using pre-kara gear list (listed on several Feral blogs), I can get a Kara/Heroic ready bear all geared up for about 1000g (or mat grinding) and a bit of luck at the AH.

I do think tanks can get burned out. It has to be the most stressful slot in a 5-man, followed by the healers. You have to know the pulls, know what to mark, know every other classes' CC abilities, know the bosses, etc. And for the most part, it is easy to tell if aren't good at your job. Healers have some of those stresses, but they don't have to deal with the "leadership" pressures (instance knowledge, marking, pulling, when to cc, etc.) like tanks have to. So, maybe tanks just get burned out faster than other classes?

Runycat said...


Anytime I'm ever unlucky enough to drop into the LFG channel on one of my alts, there are a million different groups of folks already set and formed up--all they're waiting for is a tank. Basically, I can't even buy a heroic on any of my non-tanking alts, but if I ever log on to my druid, it's like this massive influx of tells from everyone on the realm who needs a tank.

The worst part is that my boyfriend's a similarly geared warrior tank, and folks are always pissed when we get locked out of the same heroic when we both decide to go together.

So while I think each and every one of your points is valid, this is really what I think it boils down to:

1) Steeper Learning Curve: Having played two tank classes, two healing classes, and three DPS classes, I'll go out on a limb and say that tanking is, by far, the most difficult thing to do well (unless you're a prot paladin). "Okay" tanks and "Great" tanks are miles and miles apart, and as we all know, threat generation can't possibly scale with the amount of DPS a well geared rogue or warlock, for example, can put out. Why roll a tank when you can push two buttons on a mage? Or, more accurately: why play a tank when you can be OP in PVP?

2) Gear: Let's face it, if your gear sucks, it doesn't matter how good of a tank you are or aren't; you're going to die, and you're going to stress out your healers.

3) Burnout: This is the big one, at least for me. When you already are a tank, it's draining. Whether you want to or not, you're generally forced into a position where you're leading or making snap decisions that could directly impact the raid. You're visible. If a healer fucks up, okay, great, blame the healers as per usual. When a tank fucks up, you know, and you know immediately. Tanking, if you're any good, is generally like watching everyone else fail around you. It doesn't matter how awesome you are when the rest of the raid is wiping because the healers can't keep you up or the DPS can't put out enough damage (Brutallus, oh god). You can't slack off ever, because people will wipe. I know that lately I try to log onto my druid less and less when we're not raiding, because I seriously can't deal with people who want me to run them through an instance and expect it to be easy-sauce because of my gear.

I guess it's just thankless, sometimes. It's like--when we were learning Brutallus, I had to use so many consumables (even Greater Runes of Warding, etc.) it was ridiculous. Everyone else? Didn't care, because they knew we weren't getting to enrage right away. But just to keep myself alive, I HAD to use everything so we could learn. Double standards, you know? Even on a boss you can reset when things get bad, the tank usually buys it (which of course, leads into your Repair Bill bit).

I still choose to blame the fact that PvP is an easier path to cheap ass rewards. At least we can DPS too, m i rite??!?

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